Even now, says the Lord, return to Me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts." —Joel 2:12-13The first words of the Lenten Scripture readings are "even now" (Jl 2:12).
The people of Joel's time had undergone a catastrophe, but even after this tragedy they had a "now" when they could return to the Lord with their whole heart (Jl 2:12). No matter how bad the past has been or how fearsome the future may be, "now is the acceptable time!" (2 Cor 6:2)
Thank God for the "now." We may be on our way to hell, but now we can repent. We may harbor hatred and unforgiveness in our hearts, but now we have the opportunity to change all that. While we are on this earth, every "now" means there is hope.
Eventually, each one of us will face a moment of decision, a "now or never." This will be our last "now" on earth, our last opportunity to repent of sin and to love Jesus with all our heart. After this final "now," there will be no reason to hope. We will have either perfect, eternal happiness or eternal damnation.
Thus, we see how precious are the "now," the "even now," and the "now or never." We see how priceless are the gifts of Ash Wednesday, Lent, and this present moment on the way to eternity. Therefore, "delay not to forsake sins" (Sir 18:21). "Delay not your conversion to the Lord, put it not off from day to day" (Sir 5:8). "Now is the day of salvation!" Father, may I live this day as if it were my last.